Discovering Burnout in Remote Team Members

Video conferencing just isn’t the same as being there.  It’s easier to put on a happy face and pretend to be OK when things are just off.  Leaders and managers must be extra vigilant with remote team members to discover burnout and head off the effects.  It’s too easy to lose remote people to other opportunities when they feel like they’re not effective.

What is Burnout?

While burnout has classically been defined by exhaustion, cynicism, and lack of efficacy, the efficacy is the most important.  Even more critically is how someone perceives their efficacy.  If you perceive you’re being effective – even when you’re not – you’re less likely to become burned out.  Helping team members set realistic expectations and appropriately view their results as a contributor to the team is critical.

Setting Expectations

Leaders have been taught to set lofty goals.  We’ve been taught to inspire those following us to change the organization, the industry, or perhaps even the world.  Management “best practices” say that you’ve got to set stretch goals and ensure that everyone is giving their all.  The problem with these lofty visions and stretch goals is that they sometimes pull our expectations of ourselves from rational moorings and set us drifting in a fantasy land where everything gets done and everyone is happy.  When reality hits and it’s clear the lofty goals haven’t been met, it’s easy to give up hope and believe they’ll never be met.  If you think this might be happening on your team, here are some discoveries that you might make:

  • Discovery 1: Disappointment in Delivery – The first way you’ll see team members at risk for burnout is when they’re disappointed they didn’t meet unrealistic deadlines.  They’re down on themselves for not meeting a goal or deadline that no one truly believed could be made – except for them.
  • Discovery 2: Lack of Grace – If you’re a high-performing team, you’re going to fail.  It’s not a matter of if, it’s when.  The only way to not fail is to not even start to try.  If you’re willing to change the world, you’re going to miss more than you’re going to hit.  Team members at risk for burnout have little grace for failure in themselves – and sometimes little grace for those around them that aren’t perfect.
  • Discovery 3: Disappointment with Success – Those at risk for burnout can be disappointed with a success.  Because that success didn’t reach an unrealistic expectation, they discount the success and minimize its value.

If you find that team members might be facing burnout, what do you do?  Maybe it’s time to do a bit of fireproofing.

Fireproofing

Fireproofing your team doesn’t mean that the fire will never come – it means that the team will be able to survive the fire when it comes.  The same is true for burnout: you can fireproof your team to help ensure they don’t get into burnout – or they get out if they’re already there.  Here are three specific tips you can use when you think you’re discovering burnout in your team:

  • Fireproofing 1: Calibrate Expectations – After you’ve reached a defining moment, it’s just as critical to reset expectations to something more reasonable.  Keep the aspirational ideas in the future and acknowledge that, though, the ideal didn’t happen, something successful did.
  • Fireproofing 2: Recognize Results – Sometimes, we move on to the next challenge so quickly that we fail to pause and recognize the successes that we’ve just accomplished.  Find ways to acknowledge the results without releasing the need to continue onward.
  • Fireproofing 3: Make It Safe – Too often, leaders forget the fear team members feel when they don’t get immediate results.  Reassurance that leaders see their progress can prevent burnout.

If you see the signs of burnout, acting fast to stop them in their tracks can be the difference between a small fire and a complete burnout of the team.

Extinguish your burnout
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